Latest on Alex Ovechkin, Erik Gudbranson, Jamie Oleksiak, Kris Versteeg and more in your NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya welcomed their first child – a boy – into the world yesterday. The child was named Sergei in honor of Ovechkin’s late brother.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is the father of a baby boy. (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Ovechkins on the birth of their son.
SPORTSNET’s Rick Dhaliwal recently reported Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson suffered no setback in his recovery from the shoulder surgery he underwent in March. He expects to be ready for the start of the season.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak recently spent four days in Ecuador helping to build homes as part of a charitable mission through ME to WE.
THE ATHLETIC: The Montreal Canadiens’ recent past and future came together on Friday as former Habs captain Saku Koivu and Jasperi Kotkaniemi (the third overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft) met in Finland. They were taking part in an all-star game involving the greatest Finnish players past and present. Kotkaniemi hopes to emulate Koivu, who gave the youngster advice about what to expect playing and living in Montreal.
SPORT-EXPRESS’ Igor Eronko recently reported former NHL forward Kris Versteeg is expected to sign a contract with Avangard of the KHL.
NEWSDAY: New York Islanders general manager remains upbeat over the possibility his club’s new arena at Belmont Park could be completed earlier than expected. Construction is expected to being next spring.
WINNIPEG SUN: Former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Kurt Walker passed away Friday night following a brief illness. He was 64. Walker played for three seasons with the Leafs from 1975-76 to 1977-78. He spent the past decade helping players in need through his website “Dignity After Hockey.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Walker’s family, friends and former teammates. In January 2016, I did a profile of Walker and his organization’s efforts to assist former NHL players who’d fallen on hard time. Follow this link to check it out.
Game recaps plus updates on John Tavares, Dustin Brown, Justin Faulk and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM:Claude Giroux collected three assists and Sean Couturier tallied the winning goal as the Philadelphia Flyers edged the Detroit Red Wings 4-3, giving the Flyers their seventh win in their last eight games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the brink of falling completely out of the playoff race a month ago, the Flyers (37 points) now sit just two points out of a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.
Seth Jones had a two-point game and backup Joonas Korpisalo made 39 saves as the Columbus Blue Jackets doubled up the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. Leafs blueliner Jake Gardiner also picked up two points.
Dougie Hamilton’s third-period goal gave the Calgary Flames a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
SPORTSNET: During yesterday’s press conference announcing the New York Islanders winning bid to build an arena at Belmont Park, team captain John Tavares said a new arena wouldn’t be a deciding factor regarding his contract status. Tavares is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It may not be the deciding factor but it certainly improves the Isles chances of re-signing Tavares. Not only does it provides the Isles with an better venue to play in, it will also generate more revenue that can be used to invest in attracting and retaining quality talent.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski examines the reasons why the expansion Vegas Golden Knights enjoy the best home record in the Western Conference this season.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: On the eve of playing his 1,000th NHL game, Kings winger Dustin Brown is enjoying a renaissance season. With 12 goals and 26 points, he’s well within range of exceeding last season’s meager 14 goals and 36 points. Part of the credit belongs to the faith shown in Brown by new head coach John Stevens and new general manager Rob Blake.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk is trying to find a way to break out of his scoring slump. After scoring a franchise-record 17 goals last season, Faulk’s found the back of the net just once so far in 2017-18.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Andrej Sekera is slated to return to the lineup tonight against the St. Louis Blues. He’s been sidelined since the summer due to knee surgery.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals claimed forward Nathan Walker off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers, who had plucked him off the waiver wire at the end of November.
Game recaps, stars of the month plus updates on Corey Crawford, Daniel Alfredsson and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Tristan Jarry made 34 saves for his first NHL shutout while Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins blanked the Buffalo Sabres 4-0. The supposedly rebuilding Sabres have only one win in their last 10 games and sit mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Frustration is growing among Buffalo fans and pundits over the Sabres’ ongoing mediocrity. Only two months into this season, there’s calls for first-year head coach Phil Housley and general manager Jason Botterill to do something – anything – to shake up this moribund lineup.
Joe Pavelski netted his 300th career NHL goal and Aaron Dell had a 39-save performance as the San Jose Sharks edged the Florida Panthers 2-1.
Michael Grabner had a natural hat trick and Henrik Lundqvist kicked out 32 shots to lead the New York Rangers to a 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Kyle Connor scored twice while Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine each collected a goal and two assists to give the Winnipeg Jets a 7-4 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
Tyler Toffoli potted two goals and Darcy Kuemper made 39 saves as the Los Angeles Kings downed the St. Louis Blues 4-1, giving the Kings their fourth straight win.
Ryan Dzingel scored twice to lead the Ottawa Senators to a 6-5 victory over the New York Islanders to snap their seven-game losing skid. Isles forward Anders Lee also tallied two goals in a losing cause.
Josh Anderson and Artemi Panarin each had a goal and two assists as the Columbus Blue Jackets overcame a 2-1 deficit to double up the Anaheim Ducks 4-2.
The New Jersey Devils snapped a six-game losing streak in Denver with a 2-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Brian Boyle tallied the game winner.
Speaking of the Avalanche, center Nathan MacKinnon was named the NHL’s star of the month for November 2017. Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen was the second star while the third star was St. Louis Blues center Brayden Schenn.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators icon Daniel Alfredsson will be inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Hall of Fame. Former NHL players Rob Blake, Chris Chelios, and Jere Lehtinen will also be inducted.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As the Blackhawks struggle with consistency this season, Crawford was a steady presence between the pipes. They cannot afford to have him sidelined for a lengthy stretch.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson was placed on IR with a minor injury. He’s not expected to be out for long.
EDMONTON SUN: The Oilers also claimed forward Nathan Walker off waivers from the Washington Capitals.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild blueliner Jared Spurgeon is out at least two weeks with a groin sprain.
CALGARY SUN: Flames winger Kris Versteeg is listed as month-to-month with a hip injury.
Alex Ovechkin nets second straight hat trick, Panthers re-sign Michael Matheson & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin become the first NHL player in 100 years to net back-to-back hat tricks to open a season, scoring four times to lead his club to a 6-1 thrashing of the Montreal Canadiens. Teammate Nate Walker also made history, becoming the first Australian to both play an NHL game and score a goal.
Rookie defenseman Will Butcher made franchise history for the New Jersey Devils, collecting three assists to help his club defeat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1. The Devils got the victory despite losing veteran forwards Drew Stafford and Kyle Palmieri to lower-body injuries. Palmieri left the game following a knee-on-knee hit from Avs defenseman Erik Johnson, but it was ruled unintentional by the league and he won’t face supplemental discipline.
Third-period goals by Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri lifted the Toronto Maple Leafs to a wild 8-5 win over the New York Rangers. Zach Hyman also scored twice for the Leafs, who led at one point 5-1 before the Rangers stormed back to tie the game in the second period. Mats Zuccarello netted four points in a losing cause for the Blueshirts.
T.J. Brodie had a four-point night as the Calgary Flames downed the Winnipeg Jets 6-3.
Bo Horvat scored twice as the Vancouver Canucks edged the Edmonton Oilers 3-2, holding Oilers captain Connor McDavid off the score sheet.
John Tavares and Casey Cizikas each scored two goals to lead the New York Islanders to a 6-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Evander Kane also scored twice for the Sabres.
Anze Kopitar scored twice to lead the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks.
Matt Murray turned in a 26-save shutout performance backstopping the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-0 blanking of the Nashville Predators. It was a costly win for the Pens, as defenseman Ian Cole left the game after being struck in the mouth by a Roman Josi shot.
Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each had a goal and an assist in the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 thumping of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz left the game early in the first period with an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
James Neal was the offensive hero again for the Vegas Golden Knights, tallying in overtime to give the expansion team their second-straight win by nipping the Arizona Coyotes 2-1.
Wayne Simmonds was the overtime hero as the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2.
Jake Allen made 38 saves as the St. Louis Blues doubled up the Dallas Stars 4-2.
Jaccob Slavin’s shootout goal gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
Frans Nielsen scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Evgenii Dadonov and Nick Bjugstad each had a goal and an assist as the Florida Panthers held on for a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. During the pregame anthem, Lightning forward J.T. Brown held a fist aloft in a silent protest against police brutality toward minorities and racial inequality.
Before the game, the Panthers announced the signing of defenseman Michael Matheson to an eight-year, $39 million contract extension. The annual average value is $4.875 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Often overshadowed by teammate Aaron Ekblad, Matheson is a skilled puck-moving defenseman. I’d rank him as comparable to Carolina Hurricanes’ blueliner Jaccob Slavin, who also recently signed a lucrative contract extension. The Panthers obviously see Matheson playing a significant role on their blueline in the coming years.
Some might question why they didn’t sign him to a more affordable bridge deal. However, they’re simply following the recent trend of promising youngsters getting lucrative extensions before they’ve completed their entry-level contracts. Should Matheson develop as expected into a reliable top-pairing rearguard, this could prove to be an affordable long-term deal for the Panthers.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins fourth-line forward Noel Acciari will be sidelined six weeks after fracturing his right index finger blocking a shot during the Bruins’ season-opener against Nashville on Thursday.
SME SPORT: Former NHL center Zach Boychuk signed with the KHL’s HC Slovan Bratislava. (Stick tap to Alexander Wirdzek for the link).
In today’s NHL morning coffee headlines, recaps of Friday’s game and the Leafs and Golden Knights swing a trade.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Two third-period goals by James Neal powered the Vegas Golden Knights to their first-ever franchise victory as they downed the Dallas Stars 2-1.
NBC SPORTS: Artemi Panarin collected three assists to help the Columbus Blue Jackets blank the New York Islanders 5-0. Panarin set a franchise record by becoming the first player to get three points in his first game with the Jackets.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Brayden Point scored a goal and added two assists as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers 5-3.
TORONTO SUN: The Toronto Maple Leafs traded minor-league forward Tobias Lindberg and a sixth-round pick in 2018 to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for goaltender Calvin Pickard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pickard was sent to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies but he might not be in the minors for long. I’ll have more later this morning in my Rumors section.
CAPITALS TODAY: Washington Capitals forward Nathan Walker will become the first Australian to play in the NHL when the Capitals face off tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.